Bringing Practitioners to Campus

The Carlson School expands its executives-in residence program into fellowships that ensure executives’ long-term contributions.
Bringing Practitioners to Practice main

Former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger (left) and marketing professor Mark Bergen co-teach Challenges in Agribusiness at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.


BUSINESS SCHOOLS OFTEN bring practitioners in as executives-in-residence as a way to integrate business perspectives into their curricula and research. At the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis, the Executive Leadership Fellows Program significantly expands the idea of executives-in-residence, in a way that allows the school to maintain a continuous and diverse practitioner presence on campus.

The Carlson School started the Executive Leadership Fellows Program seven years ago, but it has added more structure to it over the last year. The program is coordinated by the school’s office of institutional advancement, which is responsible for creating more ways for the executive fellows to interact with students, faculty, and each other.

Each business leader selected for the program holds the fellowship for a period of one year, but many remain in their positions for five years—and some even transition into full-time roles. Carlson currently has 15 fellows, who represent decades of experience in fields such as consulting, healthcare, agriculture, and information technology.

Executives take on responsibilities according to their interests and the needs of the school. For example, those who come from the healthcare industry work closely with the school’s Medical Industry Leadership Institute, working as teachers, mentors, and faculty resources.

Jeff Ettinger, former CEO of the food company Hormel, co-teaches a new course called Challenges in Agribusiness with marketing professor Mark Bergen. Ettinger’s presence provides students with “a CEO perspective on what the questions are like, how you think about them and grapple with them,” says Bergen in a school publication.

Kevin Wilde, former chief learning officer at General Mills, collaborated with faculty in the school’s department of work and organizations to create Carlson’s new leadership curriculum for its full-time MBA program. And Jim Prokopanko, former CEO of the fertilizer manufacturer Mosaic, recently collaborated with KK Sinha, the chair of the supply chain and operations department, on the article “Sustainability as a Compass for Leadership.” The article was published in the November 2017 issue of Supply Chain Management Review. Sinha hopes to collaborate with Prokopanko on a book on a similar topic.

The school finds many potential fellows through its research centers and institutes, whose staff recommend people they would like to bring on board. The dean’s office, too, will extend invitations to executives directly. “There is a tremendous talent pool of CEOs and senior executives in our community who have just retired from their roles,” says Carlson’s dean Sri Zaheer. “This program brings their enormous wisdom and knowledge of business to our school and our faculty.”

The program encourages business leaders to participate in the school’s programs in meaningful ways—but Zaheer emphasizes that the school also must ensure that each executive feels as if his or her talents are well deployed. “The challenge is that you’re dealing with CEOs who have led some of the largest companies in the world. Ensuring they get what they need out of this experience requires a fair amount of attention, both from the faculty and from the staff who are supporting them,” she says. “In each case, we make sure to connect executive leadership fellows with a center or faculty member to help them navigate the university system. “

But the benefits far outweigh this challenge, Zaheer adds. “One of the unintended consequences has been that the executives are learning the role of the faculty—of just how good they are and how hard they work,” she says. “That word gets out into the business community.”